MasterKey Ministries of Grayson County is planning to open a new preschool at Crutchfield Heights Baptist Church, which is across the street from Crutchfield Elementary School.

The Sherman Planning & Zoning Commission approved a specific use permit and site plan recently to allow the preschool for 3-4 year old children to open in a one-family residential district at 600 S. Dewey Avenue. The planned school would offer bilingual classes and serve 48 students in the existing church building.

“We’ve been trying for a long time to get into the area that is greatly in need of being served,” MasterKey Ministries founder Julie Rickey said. “We know if we can start it early, we can make a difference.”

Rickey said the 48-student limit was MasterKey Ministries’ choice, but the commission included it as a requirement for the specific use permit and site plan approval.

“We wanted to start with 48 — we thought that was a good start,” Rickey said, explaining the school will technically be classified as a day care. “We have to be under state licensing as a day care, but it’s an academic program specifically. It’ll only be for 3- and 4-year-olds.”

Currently, MasterKey Ministries works with the Sherman Independent School District and has received a commitment from Superintendent David Hicks to coordinate programs at the new preschool. Hicks’ coordination will include referrals and sharing assessments of students in the program. MasterKey Ministries currently offers after-school and summer educational support options for children that come from homes with limited resources.

“We’ve known for a long time that children that come out stressful homes have some significant issues, and we’ve been serving the families for almost nine years,” Rickey said.

The commission received one letter opposing the specific use permit for the preschool from Michael Moore, who lives within 200 feet of the Crutchfield Heights Baptist Church.

“We have major concerns with traffic flow if there is to be a preschool or day care at this location,” Moore wrote in his letter. “This location has posted signs stating no thru traffic or parking allowed, and it happens anyway. I have seen some close calls in this parking lot and on the street. It is a miracle there has been no injuries or fatalities. I have seen children dart out from behind cars and nearly struck by oncoming traffic. This location in my opinion would at a minimum need exit and entrance signs with striping to help out with traffic flow.”

Sherman Director of Engineering Clint Philpott agreed that signs directing traffic would be a good addition to the church site.

“They do have crossing guards there for the elementary school,” Philpott said. “Any elementary school from the time 7:45 (a.m.) to 8:05 (a.m.), it can be crazy, so you definitely want to have signage and not allow them to come in both directions.”

Plans presented to the commission states parents are expected to enter the preschool’s parking lot from Wells Avenue to drop off and pick up children and then exit onto East King Street. MasterKey Ministries personnel said that would allow for “smooth traffic flow” that would avoid Crutchfield Elementary’s morning drop-off zone on Dewey Avenue.

“We already knew that with Crutchfield school being across the street that Dewey (Avenue) was an area that has a lot of traffic,” Rickey said, adding that she hopes the school’s pickup time being at 2:30 will allow its parents to “completely avoid” the area’s afternoon traffic. “We actually want to propose that we give instructions to our parents to come up Wells Avenue since they are living behind us anyway. They could come up Wells Avenue, enter into the driveway and there is a place for stacking to avoid the street parking.”